COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - A South Carolina third grade teacher who was last in her classroom less than two weeks ago has died from COVID-19, officials at the Richland 2 School District said Wednesday.
Demetria “Demi” Bannister, 28, was diagnosed with the virus on Friday and died Monday, school district spokeswoman Libby Roof said in a news release.
Bannister was a third grade teacher starting her fifth year of teaching at Windsor Elementary School in Columbia, officials said.
She was at the school on Aug. 28, during a week of teacher workdays before the school year began. She started teaching the following week from home, officials said. The district said it is tracing anyone who had close contact with Bannister and instructed custodians to deeply clean the school.
No other teacher deaths have been reported in the state. Students in South Carolina have been returning to school over the past three weeks, with everyone required to be back by the day after Labor Day. Most districts are allowing students to attend classes in person at least one day a week.
Richland 2 started the school year on Aug. 31 with all virtual classes.
South Carolina reported just 250 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, the lowest since June 3. But officials also reported a lower number of people tested: 1,744, which translates to a 14% positivity rate. That concerns health officials, who say it indicates the virus is still spreading, especially through people who show no symptoms.
“Testing for COVID-19 is essential because it helps identify people who are infected with the virus, whether or not they have symptoms, so they can isolate themselves and keep those around them from becoming infected,” the state Department of Health and Environmental Control wrote in a news release.
South Carolina’s seven-day average of COVID-19 cases is below 700, less than half what it was at its peak in mid-July. The average number of deaths also is declining slowly.
But health officials are bracing themselves for possible upticks as a result of Labor Day gatherings and the return of some students to in-person instruction.
South Carolina has reported more than 124,000 COVID-19 cases and 2,800 deaths since the pandemic began six months ago, according to the state Department of Health and Environmental Control.
Richland 2 officials said Bannister’s parents gave them permission to share details about her death and her life to remind people how serious COVID-19 is and the need to continue to take all precautions to stop the spread of the virus.
Bannister loved music and led the school choir, even writing a song last year about the importance of school to the tune of the popular song “Old Town Road,” school officials said.
“While gone from us too soon, Ms. Bannister’s legacy lives on through the lives of the students she taught in her five years as a dedicated educator,” said Richland 2 superintendent Baron Davis.
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